How This Award-Winning Pixar Director Told Off Steve Jobs

Pixar's Brad Bird and Mark Andrews working on The Incredibles. Picture courtesy of Pixar.

Pixar’s Brad Bird and Mark Andrews working on The Incredibles. Picture courtesy of Pixar.

San Francisco, CA — Steve Jobs revered Pixar for its blend of artistry and technology, as Walter Isaacson detailed in his 2011 biography, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that he actually apologized to one of the artists working on the 2004 film “The Incredibles” after he criticized some of the design in the film after a screening.

"The Incredibles," screen shot courtesy Disney/Pixar.

“The Incredibles.” Screen shot courtesy Disney/Pixar.

Mark Andrews, a writer, director and storyboard artist at Pixar, recounted that Jobs would often drop in to participate in production postmortems. It was at the company’s screening of “The Incredibles,” about a family of superheroes living undercover in the suburbs, where he first met Apple’s late co-founder. Andrews worked on the project as its story supervisor.

“Those stupid-ass, George Lucas-reject Star Wars space ships in ‘The Incredibles’ are asinine!”

“He was sitting next to me and he said: ‘I just got one thing, John and Brad,'[the film’s producer and writer/director] They said: ‘Sure, what is it Steve?’ He said: ‘Those stupid-ass, George Lucas-reject Star Wars space ships in “The Incredibles” are asinine!'” Andrews said. “And I designed ‘em, and I turned around and I said: ‘Excuse me, Steve, those are MY George Lucas-reject fuckin’ asinine space ships!’

And he said: ‘Well, I’m sorry Mark.'”

Andrews shared that memory with Cult of Mac after a recent AIGA Design series talk in San Francisco.

The anecdote was just one of dozens that Andrews recounted, while demonstrating to a couple hundred people in the audience how the process of story-boarding works and how stories in the minds of writers and animators such as himself make their way from paper to the big screen.

The episode was all the more entertaining since Andrews himself is a larger-than-life character who seems to have absorbed some of the exaggerated gestures and expressions of the characters that populate Pixar’s movies.

“I loved giving it back to Steve,” he said, laughing.

During his talk, Andrews also shared his work process and storyboards for Sony Pictures’ “Spider Man” and Disney’s “John Carter,” contrasting his series of drawings and designs for it with a clip from the actual movie (and also making all the sound effects  to accompany them.)

In fact, the series of storyboards with the opening sequence of the first “Spider Man” that he shared was the exact sequence he pitched to director Sam Raimi.

“I had no deadline, I just had to work as fast as I could because I would never know when Sam Raimi would come in and say: ‘What do you got, buddy? What do you got?'” Andrews recalled, caricaturing Raimi sucking on a cigarette.

Raimi and Andrews went through the scenes depicted of Spider Man swinging through midtown Manhattan several times, until Raimi told Andrews: “This is great, but I can’t do it.”

“I’ve got to shoot this sequence and I’ve got a street blocked off in New York for two nights! Two nights! And it only stays dark for eight hours, Mark, at this time of year. I’ve got 16 hours to get this sequence. You’ve given me 150 shots. It takes about an hour to do a shot. That’s 150 hours, minus 16 hours — it’s impossible.”

So Andrews went back and trimmed the storyline until he got it down to 20.

He shared the anecdote as a way to illustrate the difference in storyboarding for animation versus live action films.

“I never thought like that in animation, because in animation there’s no time, there’s just my ass in a chair for eight hours a day drawing as fast as I can — that’s why people love animation, because you can do whatever you damn well want,” he said.

Andrews is also the director of the 2013 movie “Brave,” which won the 2013 Academy Award for best animated feature.

As for the changes to the space ships on “The Incredibles?”

“In story, everything changes,” Andrews said. “They weren’t [properly] designed, yet, so I put something in there. He didn’t like ‘em, but we weren’t keeping them in the first place.”

Screenwriter Brad Bird’s story about a retired superhero getting back in the game eventually won two Oscars for best animated feature and best sound editing. It also won dozens of other film industry awards, widespread accolades from top critics and grossed over $631 million in movie theaters worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

About the author

Sarah Lai Stirland

Sarah Lai Stirland is from the gadget and status-crazed island of Hong Kong, where even sampan drivers enjoy showing off their latest gizmos. Sarah's work has appeared in Congress Daily, National Journal, POLITICO, Portfolio.com, Red Herring, The Village Voice, and Wired.com, among other places. She now lives with her husband, cat and her young gadget-obsessed, button-pushing daughter in San Francisco. Follow Sarah on Twitter at @LaiStirland

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